Colorado author Malia Maunakea to visit The Bookworm of Edwards

Malia Maunakea
Kahiki Photography/Courtesy photo
  • What: Adventuring as a Family with Malia Maunakea
  • When: Monday June 12, 6 p.m.
  • Where: The Bookworm of Edwards, 295 Main St., unit C101 Edwards, CO 81632
  • Cost: $10 per family; snacks included

Summer is just around the corner, which means outdoor adventures with the family and summer reading homework. Luckily, Colorado author Malia Maunakea will be at The Bookworm on Monday, June 12, to talk about her books that are perfect for planning your summer family trips and for your child’s summer reading goals.

Maunakea will be at The Bookworm for a fun and insightful author event for the whole family. Maunakea will present her two books, “Lei and the Fire Goddess,” which is great for family read-alouds and independent middle-grade readers alike, and “Backpacking with Children,” a guide to getting deep into nature with your whole family.

Family nature adventures are nothing new to Maunakea and her family. “We’ve been on 18 backpacking trips, and too many hiking and camping trips to count,” Maunakea said. “Isle Royale National Park was a unique backpacking experience, the least visited national park, took a ferry to get over there, and we stayed on the floor of huts. But honestly I think we prefer our Colorado Rockies more.”

Because Maunakea and her family have so much experience visiting places all over the country, she has a wealth of advice on how to make the most of these trips. “Manage your expectations. It is work to introduce kids to your passion, but it is so incredibly worth it,” Maunakea said. “If at first you don’t succeed, try again and again. Figure out games to play and ways to keep them entertained to keep the ‘I’m bored’ complaints to a minimum; there are several ideas of how to do that in my book.”

Maunakea is passionate about her kids seeing themselves out in nature, and she also works hard to make sure they see themselves in books too, which is why she wrote “Lei and the Fire Goddess.” “I wanted my son to find a book on the shelf that he’d see himself and his culture reflected in, so I don’t have to keep harping on how incredibly rich and special it is,” Maunakea said. “I always loved mythology from around the world so when he started reading ‘Percy Jackson,’ it just felt like a natural progression, to try to create something similar from my own upbringing and history.”

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Not only does Maunakea think it’s important for her son to learn his family history, she believes that all children should learn about their own families. “I think it is important to know your family history, whether that family is blood or not,” Maunakea ponders. “Knowing the values, morals and stories that have impacted your core group of people is really important to give you an understanding of why you’re being raised the way you are. It helps cultivate a sense of appreciation and respect for the older generation and the struggles that they may have gone through.”

Maunakea highlights her Hawaiian heritage in “Lei,” and she is also part Chinese, so the ethnicity survey checkboxes have always haunted her. With this in mind, she dedicated “Lei” to kids who also struggle with those questions. “Those checkboxes asking for my race/ethnicity drive me nutty. I’m eight different things. I don’t fit in a box,” Maunakea said. “Other kids don’t either, whether it’s race or gender or other identities. Trying to reduce us to these simple things for data collection negates so much of who we are. And don’t even get me started on when Hawaiian or Pacific Islander isn’t even on the sheet and I have to check Asian instead, as I am part Chinese too.”

It is evident, not only through the dedication, but through the Hawaiian lore featured in “Lei,” that Maunakea has written a middle-grade novel that is equal parts deeply personal and edge-of-your-seat exciting. “When readers finish my book, I would love them to walk away thinking, ‘Wow, that was fun! I wonder what will happen next,'” Maunakea said. “Also feeling better and stronger about who they are. And maybe thinking they should go give their grandma a call, then realizing that call will have to wait because it’s 2 in the morning because they couldn’t stop reading this epic, page-turner of a story.”

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